LTRP Note: Sadly, after receiving this letter and after doing our own research, we have learned that Indian Bible College of Flagstaff, Arizona (the only non-denominational Bible college for Natives) is integrating Spiritual Formation into their college. We hope IBC leadership will read Nanci Des Gerlaise’s book, Muddy Waters, and turn away from the direction they are heading. If we didn’t believe that this is a serious matter, we would not post this information. However, we know that the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) is panentheism and interspirituality, both of which negate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please read the following carefully. Please also read our special note below this letter.
To Lighthouse Trails:
The list on your website of colleges that promote “Spiritual Formation” is heartbreaking. As the well is poisoned, so the entire flock is made sick, it seems. The following example describes what takes place as the graduates of these institutions begin to have an influence. A personal perspective:
From May 20__ until May of 20__, my wife and I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona. While there, we were members of a small, conservative local church, which has a very good mission support and outreach focus. This church supports Indian Bible College (IBC), a very small institution whose mission it is to train indigenous Christians for ministry. There is a great deal of interaction between the two organizations . . . students serving ministry assignments etc. So far, so good.
[One] elder [of our church] leads a “men’s breakfast” study group. We had done some very good book studies by Ryrie and others, and then a book by Dallas Willard titled Revolution of Character was introduced. I was not very familiar with Willard’s work, but the endorsement by Brian McLaren sounded the alarm in my mind. After reading the book, I became very concerned. Sadly, my concern was shared by only one other man in the group. We tried several times to direct attention to some of the more obvious “garbage” in the book, and even the pastor admitted some concern, but ultimately said there was enough good there to warrant its use. (The pastor, an older man, is a good teacher, but does not use any electronic communication and thus seems unaware of much of the discussion surrounding Emergent/Contemplative/Spiritual Formation heresies.)
It occurred to me to look at where Indian Bible College was in terms of “spiritual formation.” There I found the answer! The college president since 2008 is Dr. Jason Koppen who received his master’s degree from Multnomah Seminary and his doctorate from Western Seminary. Effective in 2010, and whether enrolled in the one year, two year, or four year program, all students are now required to take formal “Spiritual Formation” instruction. The spiritual formation “method” is promoted vigorously throughout campus life and teaching [see links below].
The influence (of this teaching) on the elder at our church is unmistakable, and the roll-down to the local body is likewise obvious. Though we no longer live in Flagstaff , we are hearing that the errors continue to multiply with even more outrageous reading recommendations. I fear the structure and direction of this local body has been altered and not for the good. Similarly, IBC has a board made up of mostly elderly men who, like our former pastor, are simply not in touch with what is happening in the church today. They are being led along a path that leads directly into error and seem to have no clue what is at the end. This grieves me greatly!
I do appreciate what you and others (The Berean Call, for example) are doing to awaken believers to what is going on. Continue to sound the alarm and speak the Truth!
God Bless you.
(Don – not real name)
PS – Please visit www.indianbible.org to verify class schedules/titles. I think IBC ought to be on your list, even though they are very small.
Information from Lighthouse Trails, showing our concerns for Indian Bible College’s move into Spiritual Formation:
1) Jason Koppen, IBC’s president since 2009, wrote his dissertation thesis titled: “Native spiritual formation design : a strategy and process for students at the Indian Bible College.” While this document does not appear to be available to the public, we have concerns about what this “spiritual formation design” for IBC students is. Koppen received his B.S. at George Fox University, his M.S. at Multnomah University, and his doctorate at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. All three of these schools have integrated contemplative spirituality into their schools. Thus, we have strong concerns about Koppen’s “strategy and process” to bring spiritual formation to IBC students. We hope supporters and leaders of Indian Bible College will ask Koppen to let them read his dissertation thesis and find out exactly what this “spiritual formation design” entails. On Koppen’s Facebook page, he lists two of Gary Thomas’ books as favorites. Thomas is a contemplative proponent. In Thomas’ book Sacred Pathways, he tells readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes, and in his book Sacred Marriage (one of the ones on Koppen’s FB), he references tantric sex author Mary Anne McPherson Oliver (Conjugal Spirituality) a dozen times. We can only hope that Koppen doesn’t introduce IBC to Gary Thomas’ books. (Update: Since posting this article, our reader who wrote the letter above has confirmed to us that IBC has, at least in one class, used Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage).
1a) Evidence that Indian Bible College is using Jason’s dissertation material on Spiritual Formation: “October 30th we celebrated with Jason Koppen (president of the school) as he presented his doctoral dissertation to the general public. His dissertation is the culmination of 9 years of work. We are already using his material in our Spiritual Formation sessions. His final draft will be turned in tomorrow, Lord willing.” (source)
2) Bachelor of Biblical Studies Requirements – This is the current listing on their website, even though it says 2010. Includes Spiritual Formation I-VIII (8 courses in Spiritual Formation)
3) Associate of Biblical Studies Requirements – Includes Spiritual Formation I-IV (4 courses in Spiritual Formation)
3) Certificate of Biblical Studies Requirements – Includes Spiritual Formation I-II (2 courses in Spiritual Formation)
4) 2012 Fall Kickoff Kampout – “the students and staff were engaged in intensive time together as Spiritual Formation groups, exploring spiritual disciplines and spiritual pathways”
Special Note: On the Indian Bible College website, in a document titled, “A Biblical Position by Native Leaders on Native Spirituality,” it states the following: “God will not share His glory with anything in creation. To do so is idolatry. To combine elements of Native religion and biblical truth is syncretism. We must renounce and avoid any form of idolatry and syncretism, because they are forbidden in Scripture. . . . By syncretism, we refer specifically to the subtle attempt to integrate Biblical truth and faith in Christ with non-biblical Native religious beliefs, practices, and forms. The result is an adulteration of biblical truth and the birth of “another gospel (Gal 1: 6-9).” If Spiritual Formation is allowed to remain in Indian Bible College, they will have to retract this statement because contemplative spirituality (i.e., spiritual formation) not only bears similarities to Native Spirituality but it too is syncretistic being a blending of Eastern-style meditation and biblical truth that negates the Gospel in favor of a panentheistic and interspiritual view of God.
At Lighthouse Trails, we care very much for Native American and First Nations people. That is why we published Muddy Waters. And that’s why we started an entire new category titled Native Spirituality on our publishing website. We want to get this information out.
Just as it would be wrong to encourage Christian Native Americans to continue in “non-biblical Native religious beliefs” as IBC’s statement says, it would be equally wrong to introduce them to an adulterated form of Christianity (i.e., contemplative spirituality/Spiritual Formation). If you share our concerns about Indian Bible College, we urge you to contact members of the Board of Directors at Indian Bible College and ask them to investigate this matter. Lighthouse Trails will be sending complimentary copies of Muddy Waters and A Time of Departing (and an offer to read Faith Undone too if any request it) to all the board members this coming week with the hopes they will realize that bringing Spiritual Formation into the college will be doing a grave disservice to students at Indian Bible College.
|Board of Directors of Indian Bible College
|Mike Ezell, Chairman Director, Valley Counseling Center Pastor, Black Mountain City Community Church, Phoenix, AZ
|photo coming soon
|Robert Dayzie, Vice Chairman Gray Mountain Bible Church, Pastor Gray Mountain, AZ
|David Patterson, Treasurer American Missionary Fellowship, Missionary Flagstaff, AZ
|Roy Anderson, Secretary Retired Director, Pocket Testament League Missionary, Latin Evangelical Outreach Congress, AZ
|Jerry Yonnie Southwest Field Director, UIM International Sanders, Arizona
|Don Fredericks UIM International, Director Emeritus Glendale, AZ
|Willie Tsosie Kaibeto Baptist Church, Pastor Kaibeto, AZ
Articles by Nanci Des Gerlaise: